Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Deep Water


In 1967 Francis Chichester became the first person to sail solo around the world (by one definition of circumnavigation, anyway). This feat so enthralled Britons and the world in general that The Sunday Times soon announced The Golden Globe Race. Chichester had made one stop in Australia. This race was to be non-stop. Nine boats entered. Only one boat completed the trip.

I had expected this to be about the physical rigors of such a voyage … and it is, but that’s not the main focus. The sea is a formidable adversary, but your own mind can be much worse. One of the racers was Donald Crowhurst, a weekend sailor who had no business leaving the Thames, much less entering the Roaring Forties around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn. He soon realized this. If he kept on, he was a dead man. But if he turned back he was not only disgraced but financially ruined, too. So he began faking it, intending to hover off the coast of Argentina until the others came around, then fall in behind them. He didn’t intend to win, he just wanted people to think he’d finished. But oh, how fate has a way of fucking us up when we least expect it … That’s all I’ll say. You know, going in, that he’s not going to survive, but the manner of his downfall is the stuff of Greek tragedy.